Number of pupils excluded from Sheffield classrooms continues to rise

A total of 1,961 pupils were excluded from Outwood Academy City school during the 2016/17 academic year.
A total of 1,961 pupils were excluded from Outwood Academy City school during the 2016/17 academic year.
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Thousands of children were excluded from classrooms across Sheffield during the last academic year - with headteachers claiming a lack of funding meant schools were left with no other option but to ban youngsters.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that a total of 5,690 fixed-term exclusions were handed out to children during the 2016/17 academic year - an increase of two on the previous term.

A total of 5,690 fixed-term exclusions were handed out across Sheffield during the 2016/17 academic year.

A total of 5,690 fixed-term exclusions were handed out across Sheffield during the 2016/17 academic year.

The figures come after The Star and Telegraph reported that 5,688 were excluded for a set period of time between 2015 and 2016 before being allowed back into lessons - numbers which prompted Ofsted to write to headteachers in February.

Headteachers said the high exclusion rates could be linked to a lack of funding in schools across the city, something which The Star and Telegraph is calling to change as part of the Fair Deal for Schools campaign.

Vicky Simcock, headteacher at Parkwood Academy, said: "Funding is an absolutely massive issue and I have seen just how many exclusions there are and it's rising dramatically.

"But if I want to put children through alternative provision, I can't afford to do it so then I have to prioritise that one child against a large majority and I have no choice because I have to do what's right for the greater good."

Vicky Simcock, headteacher at Parkwood Academy.

Vicky Simcock, headteacher at Parkwood Academy.

Mrs Simcock said a lack of funding to social services was also affecting the number of children excluded.

She added: "It's not just schools that are in a funding crisis, social services' funding is also being cut. I know that there is a 10-week waiting list for family referrals but these are families that need to be seen now."

Ian Gilbert, headteacher at Bradfield School, agreed that a lack of funding had contributed to the figures.

He said: "I suspect the greater rates of exclusions in Sheffield are linked to our poor levels of funding compared to other local authorities. Other schools in other parts of the country have funding levels that allow them to set up internal ‘isolation units’. These are often staffed by non-teaching support staff trained in behaviour management.

"Such units can be used for ‘internal isolations’ as an alternative to fixed-term exclusions. If we were not in the bottom 50 schools nationally for funding, I would consider setting up such a unit to support our behaviour sanctions policy in school."

Outwood Academy City, which had 942 pupils during the 2016/17 academic year, handed out a staggering 1,961 - representing more than 34 per cent of the entire number across Sheffield.

Martyn Oliver, chief executive officer at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, said the number during the current academic year had fallen.

He said: "Both academic standards and behaviour standards continue to rise throughout the academy with fixed, temporary exclusions, continuing to fall. Attendance is also at a record high with more and more students attending on time and working hard every day.

"The academy receives numerous comments from students and parents alike who thank the hard-working staff who continue to transform the school at pace."

The latest figures showed the numbers of pupils banned continued to rise on 2015/16 and up more than 1,800 than in the 2014/15 academic year, when 3,875 pupils were handed fixed-term exclusions.

A total of 96 children were also permanently excluded from school, which again was an increase on the previous year's figure of 75.

The city was ranked in the top ten for the number of fixed period exclusions received by secondary school students in 2015/16 and Ofsted's regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, Cathy Kirby wrote to schools to raise her concerns.

She also called on inspectors to look very carefully at schools’ use of exclusion when making judgements about leadership and management and pupils’ behaviour.

A fixed-period exclusion means a pupil is barred from attending school for a set period of time, which can be anything from part of a school day up to a maximum of 45 days within a single academic year. This does not have to be continuous; pupils can be excluded for more than one fixed period.

Sheffield Council approved plans in September to bring in further measures to bring down the exclusion rate, including creating six 'engagement hubs' to help troubled pupils to reintegrate into mainstream schooling.

Coun Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for education and skills, also said funding was an issue in the city's schools.

She said: “Every child in our city has the right to the very best education and opportunities. That’s why in Labour’s local election manifesto we promised to work to prevent unnecessary exclusions.

“We know that teachers and schools are under enormous pressure and we know that government funding for Sheffield schools is incredibly low compared with similar cities.

“Schools are working hard to prevent exclusions but we want to ensure that they are supported as best as they can be. This is why we will be implementing new strategies to tackle problems early before a child’s behaviour gets to the point of exclusion, and we will make an announcement about how we will do this in the coming months.

“I am proud that our council now has two dedicated cabinet members for children and education. This is because as we know there is more to be done for the city’s young and we are committed to achieving this.”